What is Section 8?

Section 8 is a federally funded rental assistance program that pays private landlords the difference between what a low-income household can afford and the fair market rent.

Section 8 may refer to either the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program or the Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program. In both programs, the tenant typically pays 30% of their monthly income for housing costs.

Section 8 Housing Help

Curated questions and answers about common Section 8 concerns.

How Much Are Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers Worth

Under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, most tenants will pay 30% of their monthly income. The Public Housing Authority that issued and approved the voucher will pay the landlord the remainder of the rent and utility costs.

In cases where the market rate rent of a unit exceeds the payment standard set by the Public Housing Authority, tenants may be required to pay up to 40% of their monthly income. However, by law, contributions towards rent from a tenant may not be more than 40% of their monthly income.

Who is Eligible For Section 8?

Adults 18 years or older in households earning less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) are eligible for Section 8 assistance.

As defined by HUD, a household or family consists of one or more persons. Single persons and households without children are eligible for both Housing Choice Voucher and Project-based Rental Assistance.

United States citizens and non-citizens with eligible immigration status may receive assistance through the Section 8 program.

How to apply for Section 8 rental assistance.

Households may apply to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program through the locally administered Public Housing Agency (PHA) during an open application period. Due to high demand, PHAs may close the HCV waiting list until they can provide assistance to new households. It is against HUD policy to charge for a HCV application.

Homes made affordable through Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) are typically managed by private landlords, and application processes vary. Unlike the HCV program, PBRA landlords may charge an application fee.

For applicants who need assistance completing the application, reasonable accommodations may be made through the PHA or landlord.

How to check Section 8 housing application status and waiting list position.

The most reliable way to check the status of an application or waiting list position is to contact the housing provider directly.

Housing Authorities and property managers are not required to disclose the application status of individual applicants. Housing providers may have policies in place that restrict communicating application or waiting list status.

If the housing provider uses an online service to manage waiting lists, applicants may be instructed to use that service to modify and check the status of their applications. Verify that any website that asks for personal information is legitimate.

Can Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher assistance be granted immediately?

No, in most situations, a voucher applicant will not receive assistance before households above them on the waiting list.

Be wary of fraudulent businesses or services offering expedited assistance. The only way to receive housing choice voucher assistance is through a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) managed by the Public Housing Agency.

In situations of chronic homelessness or natural disasters, immediate assistance may be available through HUD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Where can Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers be used?

According to HUD, Housing Choice Vouchers may be used in any non-subsidized rental home that meets an acceptable level of safety standards and rent reasonableness.

Once a voucher holder submits a request for approval, the Public Housing Agency will inspect the unit to ensure those standards are met.

In some jurisdictions, Housing Choice Vouchers are not a protected source of income meaning landlords can legally refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified voucher household.

Can Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers be transferred to a different area?

Yes, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers may be transferred to another Public Housing Authority’s (PHA) service area once specific conditions are met. This process is referred to as portability.

For the purposes of portability, HUD refers to the PHA that first issued the voucher to the household as the “Initial PHA”. The agency that will administer the assistance in the new location is referred to as the “Receiving PHA”.

Initial PHAs have the option to restrict portability for households moving into their service area for assistance. Initial PHAs may only restrict portability for up to one year.

To transfer voucher assistance to a new location, voucher households must be in good standing with the Initial PHA and eligible to receive HCV assistance in the Receiving PHAs service area.

Can a Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers be transferred to another person?

No, Housing Choice Vouchers are not transferrable between people.

In some cases, such as the death of the head of household, housing authorities may allow assistance to be transferred to an adult within the household that is legally able to execute the existing lease with the landlord.

Is there a deadline to use a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?

Voucher households have at least 60 days to find acceptable rental housing according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy.

In guidance for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), HUD clarifies that the 60-day term applies to the household's formal Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) for a unit. The unit does not have to be available for occupancy at the end of the 60-day search term.

Are deadline extensions available for voucher households searching for a unit?

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have the discretion to grant extensions beyond the required 60-day search term based on household circumstances and local housing markets.

HUD policy does not mandate that PHAs grant extensions to voucher recipients.

How long does a Public Housing Authority take to approve a unit for Housing Choice Voucher tenancy?

In Chapter 10 of the Housing Choice Voucher Program Guidebook, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises that Housing Quality Standards inspections should be completed and tenants notified within 15 days of the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA).

The 15-day deadline is required for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) responsible for 1,250 housing choice vouchers or fewer. There is no requirement for PHAs managing more than 1,250 vouchers.

Does Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance expire?

No, rental assistance does not expire for households living in approved units who remain eligible for the program and in good standing with the issuing Public Housing Agency.

 How are units approved for Housing Choice Voucher tenancy?

After a voucher household has submitted a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA), the Public Housing Agency (PHA) will contact the operator of the unit to schedule an inspection.

The procedure may differ between individual PHAs, but in general, an issuing PHA must:

  • Confirm the unit is eligible and not subject to existing HUD rental assistance.

  • Determine the unit is safe and standard using the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Determine that the rent being charged for the unit is reasonable in comparison to nearby unassisted homes.

If the unit is not deemed eligible, PHAs must provide the owner and household with an opportunity to correct outstanding issues. The deadline for corrections would be established by the PHA.

Frequently Asked Section 8 Questions

Detailed Section 8 Questions from Affordable Housing Online users.

Can I use a Section 8 voucher to help pay my mortgage?

Yes, you can use a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to help pay your mortgage, but the housing authority that manages your voucher must participate in HUD's Homeownership Voucher Program.

This program operates just like the Section 8 program, only your voucher is used to pay your mortgage and other homeownership expenses.

Housing authorities may choose to participate in the Homeownership Voucher Program, but are not required to do so by HUD. From 2012-2017, 963 housing authorities nationwide have reported the use of a Homeownership Voucher. All states but Wyoming have at least one housing authority that has participated in the program, and many states have numerous participating housing authorities. Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Guam have participating housing authorities as well. A spreadsheet of these housing authorities can be found here, in the link titled "MS-Excel file" under the section "Do all PHA's participate in this program?"

Expenses that may be assisted by your voucher include:

  • Mortgage principal and interest.
  • Mortgage insurance premium.
  • Real estate taxes and homeowner insurance.
  • Housing authority allowance for utilities.
  • Housing authority allowance for routine maintenance costs.
  • Housing authority allowance for major repairs and replacements.
  • Principal and interest on debt to finance major repairs and replacements.
  • And principal and interest on debt to finance costs to make the home accessible for a family member with disabilities if the housing authority determines it is needed as a reasonable accommodation.

Homeownership Voucher participants must already have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. If you don't currently have a Section 8 Voucher, you would first need to obtain one by applying to an open waiting list through the housing authority that serves your area of interest.

You can find more on how to apply for a Section 8 Voucher here.

What is the Moving To Work Program?

Moving to Work (MTW) is a demonstration program that allows Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to design and trial locally focused housing and self-sustainability initiatives that increase housing choice for low-income households.

According to HUD, the Moving to Work demonstration has three statutory objectives:

  • Reduce cost and achieve greater costs effectiveness in Federal expenditures;
  • Give incentives to families with children where the head of household is working, is seeking work, or is preparing for work by participating in job training, educational programs, or programs that assist people to obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient; and
  • Increase housing choices for low-income families.

PHAs participating in the MTW program are exempt from may existing public housing and housing choice voucher rules though are still required to abide by protective laws established in the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and labor and environmental standards.

My family and I live in Section 8, but I have to move. Can we continue to receive Section 8 assistance in both places?

You may not use a Section 8 voucher to receive rental assistance in two different units at the same time.

If you are the head of household, you may port your voucher to the area you will be moving to, as long as you have lived in your unit for one year, or were a resident when applying to the Section 8 waiting list. The housing authority that covers the area you are moving to must be currently absorbing vouchers, so contact that office for more information. If the housing authority is not absorbing, you may have to port to a different housing authority that covers a nearby area. Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. However, if you do port, your family would no longer receive rental assistance in the unit you are currently living in.

If you are not the head of household, you may move out of the unit, but you cannot use the head of households voucher to cover your new unit. You may apply for housing choice voucher assistance through the housing authority that covers the area you are moving to.

If I find housing before I get my Section 8 voucher, can I get approved sooner?

No. Finding a unit before receiving your voucher does not have any influence on when you receive your voucher. Once placed on the waiting list, you must wait until the Public Housing Authority is able to assist you.